I remember the days long ago when one of the deacons brought into the church auditorium an overhead projector and taught us “Jesus Is Lord”. We, the young, loved such a novel idea of singing off the wall, while the older were taken aback by this new and shocking technology.
But this technology would soon be replaced with a computer generated and projection driven media presenter called PowerPoint. According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, in 1984, a former Berkeley Ph.D. student named Bob Gaskins, with the help of a hired software developer named Dennis Austin, created a prototype program called “Presenter”, which was changed to PowerPoint to avoid a trademark problem. PowerPoint 1.0 was released in 1987 for the Apple Macintosh. It ran in black and white, generating text-and-graphics pages that a photocopier could turn into overhead transparencies. Later in 1987, PowerPoint was purchased by Microsoft Corporation for $14 million. In 1988 the first Windows and DOS versions were produced. PowerPoint has since been a standard part of the Microsoft Office suite of applications. Being part of Microsoft Office has allowed PowerPoint to become the world’s most widely used presentation program, even if not the best one.
PowerPoint has been a great technological tool for media presentation and still is. However, as technology and the visual age progress, there are other options other than PowerPoint. In fact there has been some criticism of PowerPoint from some. In his essay The cognitive style of PowerPoint, Tufte, a professor at Yale, criticizes many emergent properties of the software:
It’s used to guide and reassure a presenter, rather than to enlighten the audience;
Unhelpfully simplistic tables and charts, resulting from the low resolution of computer displays;
The outliner causing ideas to be arranged in an unnecessarily deep hierarchy, itself subverted by the need to restart the hierarchy on each slide;
Enforcement of the audience’s linear progression through that hierarchy (whereas with handouts, readers could browse and relate items at their leisure);
Poor typography and chart layout, from presenters who are poor designers and who use poorly-designed templates and default settings;
Simplistic thinking, from ideas being squashed into bulleted lists, and stories with beginning, middle, and end being turned into a collection of disparate, loosely disguised points. This may present a kind of image of objectivity and neutrality that people associate with science, technology, and “bullet points”.
Now that people see what is being developed on TV, Movie Theatres and the Gaming Word, their desire for more visual creativity is almost insatiable. In fact, I have heard music ministers say that their audience has become somewhat bored with PowerPoint. They want motion and special effects. But how widely used is this new multimedia craze for projection?
On the www.infocomm.org website, I read a report from the ICIA’s Fall Leadership Forum of Oct. 23, 2003. Five speakers from leading AV market analyst firms presented some of their latest findings and one of them Paul Martin with TFC info presented an outlook for the U.S. worship market. He dispelled several myths including:
Myth #1: The Church Market is Small. In fact, the market is wide open with only 41,103 churches using AV today of the estimated 317,544 churches in the United States. The potential for digital cinema in churches is especially great.
Myth #2: Only Mega Churches Use AV Equipment. TFCinfo’s research showed that churches of all sizes have AV needs. For example, a church in Maine serving 75 people provides a sound system for the elderly.
Myth #3: Large Screens are the only Church Application. There are many other applications for AV in churches. Churches also provide education. Of the churches TFCinfo polled, 55 percent have classrooms.
Myth #4: Churches Have No Money. This is simply not true. Average-size churches spend $32,307 on projectors alone.
Bobby Reinsch, on the Lifeway.com website says “statistics show that around 90 percent of churches that show multimedia during worship use Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint does an excellent job showing linear graphical business presentations. In addition, Microsoft Office is a common software suite for businesses and churches alike. So why should we consider alternatives? PowerPoint was developed for business presentations, which for the most part are linear. Therefore, it has drawbacks when used for non-linear presentations, such as a church service. PowerPoint’s handling of text and linear structure can make flexibility difficult, especially for someone not familiar with the program.
There are many programs that go past PowerPoint both in powerful feature options for media presentation and ease of use. One would be wise to order a trial version or download a trial to see if these new software alternatives might offer a better solution for church presentations. Here are a few to consider:
One of the easiest to use but very powerful presentation software, EasyWorship utilizes the dual monitor display. This allows the audience to see only a final flawless distraction free output, while the computer operator sees the working screen of the software. This gives the operator the flexibility to edit the presentation while it is in progress, without distracting the congregation. EasyWorship is compatible with PowerPoint versions through version 2003, and displays thumbnails for the ppt. file in a preview window.
EasyWorship includes the KJV, ASV, and RVA Bible texts (with NLT, NIV, NASB, AMP, NKJV, RVR versions available for an additional fee), integrated SongSelect and Lyric Service interface for easy download and import of song lyrics, and a rich collection of media, including animated background footage. Whether using a prepared list for a service or choosing on the fly, it is a joy to operate. With its own Song, Scripture and Videos database, finding your media is easy and with just a click is displayed to your audience. EasyWorship displays super clean anti-aliased text over video in many formats including MPG, AVI, and DV, and even over live video cameras, DVD, or mixers from a capture card. The next version promises text over vob and quick time files. The preview allows you to see what is next on anything you click, before you send it to the projector. It is so easy to click on a video, click the “GO LIVE” button and you instantly (with transitions) display that video to the audience. There are over 100 transitions available, including real-time, high-quality video transitions and cross fades which even apply to the captured media. The nursery alert can display several numbers at once, and there is a scrolling message alert as well. The learning curve of EasyWorship is less than an hour for most staff members, alleviating the need for a professional IT tech. The crisp clean interface allows the operator to see everything he needs at one time so he just points, clicks and you are presenting professional images.
MediaShout software is designed from scratch to meet the unique and demanding needs of ministry presentation. Whether supporting worship, preaching, Bible study, singing, drama, or music performance, MediaShout has the tools to deliver media that’s worthy of your message. The program is simple enough to get your volunteers up and running in minutes. Yet it packs enough power under the hood to serve as the media delivery vehicle for some of the world’s largest churches, ministry conferences and concert tours. It offers dual monitor support and non-linear access to every function, from song lyrics to backgrounds to sermon notes. Live editing lets you create slides on the fly, then the live preview lets you check your work before sending it to the congregation. Live Text gives you the ability to instantly create notes directly on the screen, which is a great feature for quick announcements or concert info. The instant playback ability lets you show any slide or play any video, whether you included it in your outline or not. You can also play existing PowerPoint presentations and even edit them through MediaShout.
MediaShout also includes 19 Bible versions and 6 languages, including ASV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJB, The Message, God’s Word, and Young’s Literal Translation, as well as versions in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. Media shout does a great job of managing videos and media. MediaShout is planning to introduce a Mac version, the only software to do so. Version 3 will be coming soon and beta testers say “this will do everything you need to do on Sunday morning but make the coffee for you!” Users say with a learning curve slightly higher that Prologue SundayPlus and EasyWorship it may take you some time to find all the features, but all in all you will enjoy the power and features of this robust software.
SundayPlus is a powerful yet easy-to-learn-and-use presentation software designed just for churches. SundayPlus lets you control the projection of songs, images, movies, and other digital media. The dual-screen system provides an operator’s monitor for preview of the presentation, assuring confident control. Its simple visual interface makes sending an image to the projector as easy as point-and-click. Prologue SundayPlus , with its cool look and feel, has a picture-based interface, featuring drag-and-drop loading, which makes finding the right background and importing it into the show easy even for someone new to the program. There is also support for several video types, including Quicktime, Quicktime VR, DV, MPEG, AVI, and Flash. Font support allows you to use any font loaded on your system and even place it over video. You can also adjust the transparency of both the font and its shadow, and there is a batch text editor that allows you to change the font for several items at once. The new text editor in 2.4 has spell check, and new Bible search and a color matching dropper tool. With the new Photo Ops tool you can reset image resolution and apply treatments to your images. You can even use the image batch tool to copy those treatments to other images as well.
In addition to displaying worship songs, SundayPlus can import scripture, create announcement loops and sermon outlines, or page a parent to the nursery, all while the slide show is playing. Songs can be imported directly from CCLI’s SongSelect Lyric Service making it simple to add new songs. Site licensing allows you to install SundayPlus on any computer at your church as necessary. You will like the look and feel of the interface and it is relatively easy to use.
SongShow Plus may be the Swiss army knife of presentation software. It features a number of great tools that make a presentation for a dynamic and flexible worship service possible, including the ability to create worship lists, a song database, dual monitor support, modifiable backgrounds, text properties, and song logging for CCLI. The Professional Edition also makes it easy to use your existing PowerPoint slide shows, and supports AVI and MPG video. One of the great features not found in other software packages is the robust slide designer for sermon notes, and announcement wizards. With the addition of ProModules, it is possible to use outside databases for songs (CCLI SongSelect and Integrity Worship Software) as well as scriptures (Parson’s QuickVerse, the Online Bible, and LOGOS Bible Study Library). These interfaces make it the most well rounded of all softwares. SongShow Plus has the ability to set up a list of songs for a worship set, and with just a few clicks, you can add a new song on the fly. With enhanced display properties you can improve your presentations with motion and video backgrounds, 3D transitions, SmartChurch, Logos Series X, Online Bible, Integrity Worship Software, Parson’s Quickverse, Creative Interlude, and CCLI Song Select.
As one of the old timers in the industry, SongShow Plus is a very comprehensive software. It does take some learning, so be ready to spend some time with your tech team.
WorshipBuilder differs from the other software packages in this list because it is made to work with PowerPoint and correct some of PowerPoint’s weaknesses. If you use PowerPoint for your services, this may make your life much easier. It consists of two parts: WorshipBuilder the media manager, and WorshipLeader the display manager.
WorshipBuilder provides a way to manage the various types of media you might find in a typical worship presentation, including background images, movies, song lyrics, and sermon notes. This makes it possible to customize presentations easily and quickly. Then, with one click, WorshipBuilder creates a PowerPoint presentation automatically.
WorshipLeader provides a multimedia dashboard for navigating your PowerPoint slide show. In addition to launching your slide show, WorshipLeader delivers a number of useful features that allow you to: show any slide in the slide list with a single click; preview slides before sending them to the screen; add songs or scripture to an active slide show; change slide transitions; overlay messages on top of the presentation (such as nursery announcements); automatically scroll announcement slides; start and stop audio and video files; add slides to an active show; change transitions; jump to any slide; overlay announcements; or even edit slides on the fly.
A frequent complaint of PowerPoint users is the lack of flexibility during a slide show. You can advance a slide show forward, backward, or show a specific slide if you know the slide number. PowerPoint XP includes a slide viewer, an improvement, but not a complete solution for the dynamics of worship.
WorshipLeader is the perfect complement to PowerPoint in worship. If you’ve ever scrambled to get the correct words up on the screen in the middle of a song, you’ll appreciate the flexibility that WorshipLeader provides.
Worship Him is designed to meet the presentation needs of today’s spontaneous church services. If your church is using a video projection system, then Worship Him can make preparing and executing a Worship service fast, fun, and easy. Imagine preparing for a worship service in minutes instead of hours. With Worship Him’s multiple monitor support, your song lyrics are spread out before you, and displaying a song lyric is as simple as clicking on it. You can automatically track song usage, quickly bring up songs for display whether planned or spontaneous, import PowerPoint presentations, display Bible verses, pictures, nursery messages, video clips, audio clips, Shockwave Flash movies and more. Worship Him allows you to create a queue list of commonly used items, making them even quicker to select. Any medium is available to the queue list and it can be emailed from remote locations if necessary. Worship Him can import songs from CCLI’s SongSelect Lyric Service as well as track the song usage and generate reports. PowerPoint files can be included in the queue list and played like any of the other supported media types, including MPEG and AVI. Alert messages, such as nursery pages, can also be inserted on the fly.
Worship Him also has an “Operator Notes” feature, allowing special instructions to be available to the slide show operator, such as “long interlude after verse one”. This can be a very useful feature for churches that have more than one service and more than one computer operator. New features include transitions, powerful macro recording and playback, more graphics (including announcement backgrounds), and support for more sound and video formats.
There are more software offerings out there and perhaps more new worship software will emerge as technology and time do a dance. If you search the internet and look for “worship software” you will be pleased to know that there is so much out there that is beyond Power Point. Just remember, if all this scares you, think back; it wasn’t that long ago when deacon Horn Blower brought in that abomination called the overhead projector, and we lived through it! Go ahead and explore and see the possibilities in the worship presentation software market.